You’re taking your daily walk, and you see a dog approaching. It’s scowling, and its body is tensing up. As it bares its teeth and flattens its ears, you realize that this dog doesn’t want a treat. It wants you.
Every year, in the United States, about 14,000 people are hospitalized with dog bite injuries. And in an attack, you might have to face more than one or two dogs.
Fatal, multi-dog attacks involving more than three dogs have risen 164% since the late 1980s. In 2019, attacks involving more than three dogs caused 38% of all deaths. And pit bulls were involved in 78% of those attacks.
Why are some considered more dangerous than others? Should you stare at a dog until it backs down? And why is running away a bad idea?
If a dog attacks you, trying to run away is not likely to help. Most likely, you will not be able to outrun a dog. And running away can awaken a dog’s prey instinct to chase and catch you. And dogs who hurt people most likely do so because of their ancestry.
These dogs were bred for hunting, working, and baiting large animals like bulls. People encouraged those dogs’ aggressiveness, and bred them for their aggressive traits, to help them better perform their tasks.
And centuries later, those traits are still coded into dogs’ DNA, especially in Dobermans, Rottweilers, pit bulls, pit bull mixes, and wolf hybrids. Lists of dangerous dog breeds often include German Shepherds and Akitas too. And the dogs we call pit bulls are often controversial.
Many people don’t realize that pit bulls are not a breed. The term pit bull refers to the American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and American Bully dogs.
They’re descended from the English bull-baiting dog, which was bred to bite and hold massive animals, including bulls and bears. A pit bull attacks by biting its target, then shaking its head back and forth.
So, if you have a pit bull, it’s essential to evaluate, socialize, and continually train your dog. The dog always needs to know how you want it to behave, and not just rely on its instincts.
But if the dog is threatening you, and it’s a pit bull or one of the other more aggressive breeds, what can you do to survive the attack?
Step 1: Hope it Has a Smart Owner
The best way to prevent an attack is for the owner to train their dog not to attack. And the owner should always make sure their dog is in the house, in a secure yard, or on a leash.
Step 2: Avoid Dogs with a Bad History
Hopefully, the dog’s owner will take appropriate action if their dog bites someone. But don’t count on it. Data from 2019 shows that 40% of people killed by dogs involved dogs with a history of being aggressive toward people. About 21% of the killer dogs had a history of being aggressive toward other animals. And shockingly, 13% of the dogs had bitten or severely attacked the victim in the past. So if a dog bites or attacks you, stay away from it in the future.
Step 3: Assert Your Dominance
If an aggressive dog confronts you, the most important thing to do is to stay calm. It’s normal to feel fear or anxiety, but don’t give in to it. And don’t start yelling or kicking at the dog.
It’s like psychological warfare. An aggressive dog wants you to be stressed out before it attacks. So if you remain calm and in control, it slows the dog down and messes up its plans. Stay calm and assertive.
That lets the dog know that you are not afraid, and it demands the dog’s respect. When the dog senses that you are not threatening it, and you are not threatened by the dog, it will probably lose interest. Then the situation is likely to de-escalate.
Step 4: Give Strange Dogs Some Space
It might seem safe to pet an unfamiliar dog. But you can never be sure of the dog’s temperament. This is good advice for you and your children.
In 2019, 27% of the people who were bitten to death by dogs were children only nine years old and younger. Another 6% of people killed by dogs were 10 to 18 years old. And the largest group of people killed by dogs – 67% – were adults age 19 and older.
You might know that you’re planning to pet a dog, but the dog may not always know that. So give an unfamiliar dog some space.
A pit bull mauled a seven-year-old girl on the Upper West Side of New York City in 2020. Her mother gave her a dollar, and the little girl walked up to give it to a homeless woman with a dog. When the child approached, the pit bull latched onto her face, and slammed her into the sidewalk.
The little girl’s mother, and the dog’s owner, could not pull the dog away. Another bystander came to help, and finally got the dog off the child. The little girl was bleeding profusely and had to be treated at a hospital. So, if you don’t know a dog, keep your distance.
Step 5: Avoid Staring Contests
Avoid direct eye contact with an aggressive dog. Instead, stand slightly sideways, which also makes you a narrower target, and keep the dog in your peripheral vision. Making eye contact may incite the dog to lunge at you. And if it does lunge, protect your face, chest, and throat.
- “When Dogs Attack: What To Do When Attacked By A Dog | Cesar’s Way”. 2019. Cesar’s Way.
- “Veterinarian-Approved Advice On How To Handle A Dog Attack”. 2021. wikihow.com.
- “Why do dogs attack their owners?”. Rebecca, Seales. 2017. BBC News.
- “5 Most Aggressive Dogs By Breed”. 2019. Petful.
- “5 Things To Know About Rottweilers”. Lacoste, Kristine. 2019. Petful.
- “7-Year-Old Girl Mauled By Dog On Upper West Side”. 2020. newyork.cbslocal.com.